Technology has taken over the accounting profession. And, hold on, there's even more to come. A few short years ago, we didn't even know what an "app" was. (Most of us knew the term by its longer, more formal name, "application.")
Today, apps are everywhere. For accountants, there is a broad offering for different needs and wants. But, with so many apps out there, it's sometimes hard to decide which are the best. And, since new ones are being added all the time, it's even difficult to keep up with the names and their uses.
Here are six apps every accountant should consider using in their practice. They can help you increase efficiency, reduce errors, and manage risk. Plus, they can help you with long-term goal strategy and realization, an essential element to long-term firm success.
Price - $10 to $60 per month (add-on payroll functionality $19 to $49 per month plus $2 per employee)
With its bank feeds that bring in account transactions in almost real time, plus syncing with outside apps and bank rules, QBO brings powerful functionality that can significantly reduce data entry and categorization time.
With bank feeds, data is being brought into QBO straight from financial institutions. The chance of data-input errors is greatly reduced. Syncing with outside apps, for example, sales or payroll, can ensure that transactions are recorded quickly, consistently, and correctly. The possibility of human error is seriously reduced.
Bank rules, which allow you to apply certain conditions to incoming transactions, can help ensure classification is efficient and consistent. While there are other accounting apps available, QBO is one of the best. It has high-quality control standards for the apps it allows to connect to it.
Plus, with its Intuit Developer site that guides new apps through its sophisticated application programming interface (API), apps can be developed and tested quickly. This allows new apps to be available sooner, giving users new options and solutions all the time.
Price – Free for individuals plus 2.75% per transaction
Square started out as a payment processor to help small businesses get paid faster. But, it has evolved into something much more powerful. Now, Square provides a variety of services in addition to payment processing. Through Square, its customers can utilize such functionality as inventory tracking, sales tracking, and payroll processing.
Square has grown to be a large company but still focuses on helping small and medium-sized businesses manage their financial functions. Plus, with its ability to sync to accounting systems like QBO, Square can facilitate the efficient transfer of data from the sales, inventory and payroll transactions into a company general ledger without human interaction to complicate the process.
While your firm might not utilize inventory tracking, being aware of the functionality can help in providing service to clients. It can also assist when using the app to pull together financial information for a client.
Price - $39 to $149 per month base cost plus $6 to $12 per month per employee
Gusto provides full-service payroll and benefits administration. This can allow small companies to act more like big companies, offering more and better benefits. Often, a big difference between large companies and small businesses is in the offering of benefits, things like health insurance, section 125 plans, and vacation pay. Gusto has services in place to help with both payroll and benefits, including all required filings to keep companies in compliance with regulatory authorities. Plus, Gusto will sync with accounting applications like QBO, allowing it to feed information so that the accounting app will automatically balance to the company's payroll information. This can aid in the reconciliation process most companies go through at least annually before they file documents such as income and franchise tax returns. Plus, from a risk management standpoint, letting payroll and benefits experts handle the processes and filings can be a positive move. Payroll and benefits can be complicated and time-consuming. Missteps can result in high penalties. Minimizing that risk can lower stress and free up time for more profitable activities.
Price - $999 per user per year (add-ons such as Tax Resolution and Notices require an additional annual fee)
Canopy is a practice management app that caters specifically to tax practices. While it has many of the same features of other practice and project management software, it also offers tax-specific functionality to enhance a tax practice's ability to service its clients. Specifically, Canopy's tax resolution, IRS transcripts and notices capabilities allow tax practitioners to offer these services with a marked decrease in time needed to help clients.
For instance, the transcripts functionality can communicate directly with e-Services from IRS. So, once proper documentation has been provided to IRS, Canopy can quickly pull transcripts. Then, it can help practitioners navigate through the provided information to get to the answers needed about taxpayer activity with the IRS. Since tax resolution is often a value-added service for tax firms, this functionality can be a powerful tool in providing top-notch tax service to clients.
Plus, it can help firms lower the risk involved in dealing with such time-sensitive issues as tax resolution by delivering needed documentation in a time- and cost-efficient manner.
Price - $120 per user per year
Align Today is strategic planning software based on the highly acclaimed Rockefeller Habits featured in the book, Scaling Up, by Verne Harnish. This application helps to take the steps outlined in detail in the book and put them action. For those familiar with the Rockefeller Habits, the application employs such activities as the One Page Plan and BHAG (or Big Hairy Audacious Goal).
The software helps companies take big dreams and goals and break them down into smaller goals and action steps so that long-term objectives can be met. And, it's set up to work with both small and large groups. Strategic planning and goal implementation can be tough but Align Today is designed to facilitate a better connection between goals and the steps needed to achieve them. This can be a great aid to long-term risk management, where goal-setting and realization can be achieved timely, creating greater business stability and longevity.
Price - $20.95 to $43.95 per return for individual returns; $35.95 to $54.95 per return for business returns
ProConnect Tax Online (PTO) is one of Intuit's tax software offerings. It is a cloud-based application that can sync up with QuickBooks Online. It's accessible right from the QuickBooks Online Accountant dashboard.
This sync-up functionality can allow for automatic updates in PTO for adjustments made to the QBO account. It can make updating a return seamless plus decrease the risk of changes to the trial balance not showing up on the tax return. PTO also has add-ins that can be implemented to increase service offerings to clients.
Like other tax software applications, PTO offers electronic signing of Forms 8879, allowing for great flexibility and compliance when it comes to client authorization of electronic filing. It also has another add-on that enables clients to pay via their tax refunds, ensuring that the firm gets its fees quickly and efficiently.
The PTO dashboard shows an overview of the status of all returns. It can be viewed by year. It can also be broken down by return type, e-file progress, and return status. This can be helpful in prioritizing work, especially when close to filing deadlines. It can also assist in making sure things like e-file rejects are cleared timely, allowing for a smooth e-filing process.
Be Sure You Use Apps Appropriate for Your Firm
The apps outlined in this post are good solid choices, especially if you don't already use similar ones. But, it's important to remember that there are other excellent choices available. The chief thing is to realize there are options out there to help you increase efficiencies, decrease chances for error, and even provide opportunities for expanded service offerings for your firm.
The firm of the future will need to be tech-savvy to flourish. Taking advantage of technology is critical. But, being aware of options and functionality is an important first step. These applications can help you to not only decrease risk but also save time. This time saving can allow you to take on additional work and increase firm profitability. Both can help you manage overall risk by not being overly reliant on few service offerings or clients.
Your clients expect you to stay up with and even be on the cutting edge of technology. And, since tech knowledge can be a differentiator in the marketplace, it's essential to be informed. Managing risk is key to a successful practice. Not being aware of accounting apps and